DEMETRIS KOILALOUS (Athens, Greece)
I was born in Athens where I live & work as a photographer, specializing in portrait, theatre and advertising photography. I think that my love for photography originates and my enthusiastic passion to observe curiously and collect images– an obsession which I inherited from my father- a keen philatelist. My childhood memories from the mysterious landscape of the Campos of Chios -residence of the Genoese and the local aristocracy of the C17th & 18th- shaped my conception of the Landscape and ever since I am looking for the mystery and ambiguity in every space that I photograph. I came across photography in Oxford in 1982 as a student. The same year I got my first camera and my first photographic books: “Les autres Ameriques” by Sebastiao Salgado & “Ordeal by Roses” by Eikoh Hosoe & Yiukio Mishima; both influenced my oeuvre decisively. I studied Town & Country planning and Geography in Edinburgh & London. I was photographing passionately throughout those years, but I was also thrilled by my studies through which I found out how to correlate diverse disciplines like politics and philosophy with Art. In the early 80s I got introduced to the secret and allegorical space of Theatre -a world of underlying relationships and invisible coordinated threads of interaction. Ultimately, exactly like in Theatre, photography for me poses questions about space, people and their hidden relations. Photography is about exposing the hidden layers of reality. It is a series of optical philosophical questions; enigmatic and ambiguous.
Literally speaking Heterotopia is defined as the ‘other’ space: the reflection mirroring of an authentic, at the same time existent and fictional. It is an underlying layer beyond reality –an ultimate space of meaning behind the world of appearances and definitions. Fouceault’s Heterotopia is the point where Utopia meets Reality, essentially referring to an allegorical space of underlying relationships of culture and power, beyond the physical (visual) and the conceptual (mental) levels.
«HETEROTOPIA» looks at what has been accomplished in contemporary Israel in the name of the Promised Land. The transformation and the domestication of the hostile and ancient environment of Palestine and the creation of archetypical primeval settlements into the harsh Palestinian desert -beyond a major architectural and landscaping achievement- ultimately constitutes the epitome of faith and determination of the first Kibbutzim. Hence, the ancient hearth ultimately represents in a unique way the unbroken and interconnecting circle (the fundamental shape in the history of civilization), which connects the sitters equally between themselves and coequally to the fireplace –the nucleus of the community.
However, social, economic and ideological developments in Israel are not only related to major technical accomplishments. Towards the establishment of contemporary Israel notions such as memory, history and religion (as well as the institutions which reproduce them), have been employed in order to create, consolidate and reproduce a sense of national and political identity.
Finally the people of Heterotopia are not ‘common people’. They have gained an iconic status in everyday life, as their role is to support and preserve the political, social and cultural environment of Heterotopia.
Focusing at the environment of Heterotopias allows the viewer to reveal the imprint of contemporary Israel especially in connection to the mechanisms through which the notions of power, identity and authority are incubated and reproduced.
Through a process of deconstruction and a projection at a spatial level, HETEROTOPIA attempts to raise questions about relationships of culture, power and authority and re-addresses those fundamental elements, which determine the identity of contemporary Israel: religion, history and memory.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
For me shooting on film is an intentionally a slow process, which allows me the time to think and analyze before I shoot. Often I make final decisions while I prepare my shooting session, while when I am on digital I often go on an automatic mode. Essentially shooting on film requires a pace that I feel comfortable working at.
Using film is often a little more inflexible at the technical level and needs precision. Again, this process makes me think longer and more thoroughly, and give solutions seemingly about technicalities, which however also affect the aesthetic level.
More than anything, it is the element of surprise during the shooting process which fascinates me. Nothing can be checked or corrected until the film is developed. After seeing the developed film is too late to fix anything and have to go along with this game of luck –or misfortune, and make it part of your narration.
Finally, it is the material nature of the film, which reminds me that more than anything photography for me is a world of small and personal fetishes.